A vital, visually stunning photographic volume.

READ REVIEW

TREEGIRL

INTIMATE ENCOUNTERS WITH WILD NATURE

A conservationist and art photographer explores the erotic aspects of trees. 

For more than 20 years, Arbor has been creating intimate photos of trees and people together. The humans, which include herself and others, are nearly always nude, and the folds and curves of their bodies harmonize with the sinew of the trees. In one, the author prostrates herself, as if on an altar, along a platform at the base of a 285-foot mountain ash; in others, she reclines on a willow that appears as though it’s bending to drink at a nearby pool or nestles in the crook of a windblown Cyprus, the curve of her back in perfect accord with the outermost bough’s lurch to the left. In one black-and-white photo, she molds herself to the basal furl of an enormous fig tree, pressing her palms and her cheek against its bark, looking like something from the pages of Ovid’s Metamorphosis. “For tens of thousands of years,” she writes, “people took refuge under trees, held council under trees, and depended upon trees for survival.” Indeed, from even earlier. Anyone perusing Arbor’s book can’t help but feel eerily reminded of humanity’s distant ancestors—the earliest hominids—and how some of them would have lived nearly their whole lives in the vanished oaks and beeches of the Pliocene (“we lived in kinship with them,” she achingly writes of that forgotten past). Sometimes the models’ fetal poses in the trees drift toward the sentimental, à la Anne Geddes’ work, and some readers may be amused by the fact that sometimes the models are difficult to locate, bringing to mind Where’s Waldo? But such levity isn’t unwelcome, and it serves only to intensify the fact that humans can appear eerily camouflaged in nature. Fortunately, Arbor has a remarkable eye for how light and shadow shape the viewer’s experience of texture, and some pictures are every bit as powerful and haunting as Edward Weston’s images of bell peppers—or, for that matter, of trees. Forest giants from Tasmania to South Africa to Anatolia have never seemed so alive.

A vital, visually stunning photographic volume.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-72604-4

Page Count: 200

Publisher: TreeGirl Studios LLC

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Ackerman writes with a light but assured touch, her prose rich in fact but economical in delivering it. Fans of birds in all...

THE GENIUS OF BIRDS

Science writer Ackerman (Ah-Choo!: The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold, 2010, etc.) looks at the new science surrounding avian intelligence.

The takeaway: calling someone a birdbrain is a compliment. And in any event, as Ackerman observes early on, “intelligence is a slippery concept, even in our own species, tricky to define and tricky to measure.” Is a bird that uses a rock to break open a clamshell the mental equivalent of a tool-using primate? Perhaps that’s the wrong question, for birds are so unlike humans that “it’s difficult for us to fully appreciate their mental capabilities,” given that they’re really just small, feathered dinosaurs who inhabit a wholly different world from our once-arboreal and now terrestrial one. Crows and other corvids have gotten all the good publicity related to bird intelligence in recent years, but Ackerman, who does allow that some birds are brighter than others, points favorably to the much-despised pigeon as an animal that “can remember hundreds of different objects for long periods of time, discriminate between different painting styles, and figure out where it’s going, even when displaced from familiar territory by hundreds of miles.” Not bad for a critter best known for bespattering statues in public parks. Ackerman travels far afield to places such as Barbados and New Caledonia to study such matters as memory, communication, and decision-making, the last largely based on visual cues—though, as she notes, birds also draw ably on other senses, including smell, which in turn opens up insight onto “a weird evolutionary paradox that scientists have puzzled over for more than a decade”—a matter of the geometry of, yes, the bird brain.

Ackerman writes with a light but assured touch, her prose rich in fact but economical in delivering it. Fans of birds in all their diversity will want to read this one.

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59420-521-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.

HOW TO BE AN ARTIST

A noted critic advises us to dance to the music of art.

Senior art critic at New York Magazine and winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism, Saltz (Seeing Out Louder, 2009, etc.) became a writer only after a decadeslong battle with “demons who preached defeat.” Hoping to spare others the struggle that he experienced, he offers ebullient, practical, and wise counsel to those who wonder, “How can I be an artist?” and who “take that leap of faith to rise above the cacophony of external messages and internal fears.” In a slim volume profusely illustrated with works by a wide range of artists, Saltz encourages readers to think, work, and see like an artist. He urges would-be artists to hone their power of perception: “Looking hard isn’t just about looking long; it’s about allowing yourself to be rapt.” Looking hard yields rich sources of visual interest and also illuminates “the mysteries of your taste and eye.” The author urges artists to work consistently and early, “within the first two hours of the day,” before “the pesky demons of daily life” exert their negative influence. Thoughtful exercises underscore his assertions. To get readers thinking about genre and convention, for example, Saltz presents illustrations of nudes by artists including Goya, Matisse, Florine Stettheimer, and Manet. “Forget the subject matter,” he writes, “what is each of these paintings actually saying?” One exercise instructs readers to make a simple drawing and then remake it in an entirely different style: Egyptian, Chinese ink-drawing, cave painting, and the styles of other artists, like Keith Haring and Georgia O’Keeffe. Freely experiment with “different sizes, tools, materials, subjects, anything,” he writes. “Don’t resist something if you’re afraid it’s taking you far afield of your usual direction. That’s the wild animal in you, feeding.” Although much of his advice is pertinent to amateur artists, Saltz also rings in on how to navigate the art world, compose an artist’s statement, deal with rejection, find a community of artists, and beat back demons. Above all, he advises, “Work, Work, Work.”

A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08646-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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